Newsletter 28 October 2014

Coastal Ground Cherries, Physalis angustifolia.

Coastal Ground Cherries, Physalis angustifolia.

It was a very berry weekend and perhaps our last as the nation cycles into the winter season. We started with Coastal Ground Cherries, Physalis angustifolia.

Another species, Physalis walteri, also known as starry-hair ground-cherry and sand cherry, looks similar to the Coastal Ground Cherry except it has star-shaped hairs on the lower edges of the leaf which are visible with a hand lense.

Physalis walteri, also known as starry-hair ground-cherry and sand cherry, looks similar to the Coastal Ground Cherry

Our timing was perfect. The husks were gold to a tan, dry, papery. Inside the fruit was deep yellow to gold, tangy in taste. Ground cherries ripen from green to gold, getting sweeter and tangier as they go along. But they can often have a bitter after taste either from being under ripe or some species just retain some bitterness. A little aftertaste of bitterness is okay but the best is when there is none. Thus one always tastes a ripe ground cherry then waits a minute or so for any bitterness to appear.

You don't eat the husk, just the ripe fruit inside.

You don’t eat the husk, just the ripe fruit inside.

While locally Ground Cherries can fruit nearly all year, they do produce a spring and fall crop. In cooler climes they just have one season ripening in late summer and fall. Here our fall crop tends to be better than our spring one. Spring ground cherries can rot on the plant or get damaged by insects and that is also when I tend to find more bitter ones. But this time of year brings out the best in ground cherries. One can find whole, undamaged, very ripe Ground Cherries in significant numbers. You can make a pie out of them if you can manage to get some home uneaten. Incidentally there is a second local ground cherry that resembles the Coastal Ground Cherry. It’s Physalis walteri, also known as starry-hair ground-cherry and sand cherry. It has star-shaped hairs on the lower edges of the leaf which are visible with a hand lens. Still edible, however. To read more about Ground Cherries go here.

Cocoplums are much underrated as a fruit.

Cocoplums are much underrated as a fruit.

The second “berry” of the day was cocoplums. As we are in a seasonal shift we had to look at several bushes but in time we found enough for everyone to have a taste of the much-underrated fruit. I’m not sure why most wild food writers disparage the cocoplum. I like the pulp’s flavor as well as the seed which tastes like granola to me, or almonds. There are three common varieties, purple, red and white. All are edible and to my palate taste the same. Those who study the various species say the flavor improves with the dark species. As they have a long season and are a common ornamental one can usually collect a lot of cocoplums. To read more about cocoplums click here.

Simpson Stopper berries can be edible when very ripe.

Simpson Stopper berries can be edible when very ripe.

While we are past the season for Simpson Stopper berries one bush did have some very ripe to dry fruit and we got a chance to taste them as well. Leaning towards a sweet orange rind flavor they can be palatable if your timing is right. While they can be eaten out of hand the flavor can be intense so often Simpon Stopper berries are processed into jelly and the like. Like the cocoplums it’s a native used in landscaping, usually as an accent plant but they can also be trained into a long hedge. More about the Simpson Stopper is here. 

Don't eat too many raw elderberries.

Don’t eat too many raw elderberries.

Our fourth berry of the day had a lot to live up to but couldn’t even if it tried. While elderberries get a lot of copy, they are not great right off the bush. Fresh the best they ever get up to in taste is not too bad. Like Dove Plums they benefit greatly from processing, either drying or being made into syrup, jelly, wine or pies. It is also a medicinal plant. The flowers are edible as well. A multitude of foraging books say you can eat elderberries raw but that is true only if you eat a few, for tasting purposes. Larger amounts of raw elderberries can cause nausea and upset the digestive system.

Lemon Bacopa smells like lime to me.

Lemon Bacopa smells like lime to me.

Strange things can happen in foraging. That’s my experience with Lemon Bacopa. It’s a common plant but not found commonly. I have found it five times. The first time was with Dick Deuerling some twenty years ago. The next time was about five years later on a damp woods road. Then about five years after that I found it on the shore of a lake near where I live. If you’re counting that’s a sighting averaging about once every six or seven years or so. This past week, however, I saw it twice, in Wekiva state park and 200 miles to the south on the Florida Gulf Coast University campus. It’s relative, Bacopa monnieri is very common but very bitter. Lemon Bacopa has a wonderful citrus-like flavor which I think is more like lime than lemon. To read about it go here.

Bananas ripening as Oliver Whitecat supervises.

Bananas ripening as Oliver Whitecat supervises.

And if you do happen to live in southwest Florida — where I spent the weekend — it’s time to cut off terminal banana blossoms and take the hand inside to ripen. Bananas left on their own outside often spoil before fully ripening. Removing the terminal blossom and cutting the hand off and taking it inside increases the amount of ripe fruit significantly. More so they can take one or two weeks to ripen so you have a steady source of fresh ripe fruit. Bananas also take two years of cold-free weather to produce bananas. Did you know you can cook on banana leaves? To read more about the bananas click here.

The edible Lactarius indigo.

The edible Lactarius indigo.

Other interesting sightings this past week included a Pond Apple (on the only Pond Apple tree I have seen other than on Sanibel Island.) We also nibble on False Roselle and mushroom-flavored Blue Porterweed blossoms. At the university I think we found the mother load of ripe Creeping Cucumbers. There were certainly hundreds of them including many at the stage to take home for seeds. It’s unfortunate that they do not make good pickles but otherwise are wonderful little cucumbers. And thanks to the good eyes of Benjamin Dion I got to see the Lactarius indigo mushroom. Incidentally if you ever visit the university tour their food forest, a half-acre of intensely crafted and maintained collection of food plants, shrubs and trees. It’s a good example of how a well-designed small plot can feed a lot.

Green Deane during a foraging class.

Green Deane during a foraging class.

Upcoming classes: Thursday, October 30th, Emerson Point Preserve, 5801 17th Street West, Palmetto, FL 34221. This class is part benefits Eat Local Week of greater Sarasota. The class starts at 9 a.m. and goes to 11 a.m., cost is less than usual, $20. To learn more about other events of that week go here.

Saturday, November 22nd Mead Garden,1500 S. Denning Dr., Winter Park, FL 32789, 9 a.m.

Sunday, November 23rd, Colby-Alderman Park: 1099 Massachusetts Street, Cassadaga. Fla. 32706.

You may wonder why I am taking three weeks off for classes. Two answers, moving one house to another and significant dental surgery including bone transplant. I got hit in the mouth in the fourth grade and it has plagued me via various incarnations for over half a century. This is but one more accommodation of that. If I can speak well by the dates above I will probably add classes on the 29th and 30th as well.

Baby and mom

Baby and mom

Eat The Weeds On DVD. My foraging videos do not include alligators but they do cover dozens of edible plants in North America. The set has nine DVD. Each DVD has 15 videos for 135 in all. Some of these videos are of better quality than my free ones on the Internet. They are the same videos but many people like to have their own copy. I burn and compile the sets myself so if you have any issues I handle it. There are no middle foragers. And I’m working on adding a tenth DVD. To learn more about the DVDs or to order them click here.

There's a wide variety of acorns and flavors.

There’s a wide variety of acorns and flavors.

On the Green Deane Forum we post messages and pictures about foraging all year-long. There’s also a UFO page, for Unidentified Flowering Objects so plants can be identified. Recent topics include: Acorns All Colors And Sizes, Turn On The Water, Nanoscopy, Puff on This, Lab To Determine Plant Composition, Orange Red Berry, Atlatl, Odd Trees, Grinder for Tough Roots, European Mountain Ash Edible? Curly Dock,  Goldenrod of Some Sort, Saffron Crocus Surprise, Cute Little Orange Thing, Indian Strawberry and Kousa Dogwood, Top Ten Herbs, Paleo Goodies, American Beautyberry, and Two Portulacas. The link to join is on the right hand side of this page.

EarlyBirdSquare10-31It is not too early to think about going to the Florida Herbal Conference in late February. I’ve taught there for the last three years and will be there again this year. In fact I plan to spend a lot of time there. You should also know there is an early bird special that expires this Friday, October 31st. It’s a must for all southern herbalists and well as those northern ones who want to escape the cold and study their craft in the dead of winter. It always has interesting speakers and great classes. For more information and to register go here.

As previously mentioned I spent the weekend on the southeast coast of Florida. Sunday included a tour of the food forest at Florida’s Gulf Coast University as well as a foraging class. Here’s the crew after some five hours of rummaging around.

Foraging class at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Foraging class at Florida Gulf Coast University.

If you would like to donate to Eat The Weeds please click here 

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • George Johanson October 28, 2014, 11:57 am

    I have donated to you before and love your columns. I wish I lived near your walk sites but live in NY. However, I do have a house on Cayman Brac and love to gorge on regular purslane and sea purslane. I sure wish things like beach plums grew there.

    Reply
    • Green Deane October 28, 2014, 4:14 pm

      I’ve been to the Caymans but not foraging. It’s a great place to have a house.

      Reply
  • Janna October 29, 2014, 12:17 pm

    Hello,

    I enjoy very much your newsletter. In fact, I am totally thrilled to have stumbled across your homepage and signed up for your newsletter immediately. I am sitting in the office right now and can’t wait to get out and search for interesting plants!!! I live in Tampa and I am sooooo interested to learn more about local eadible plants! Do you hold classes during the week in Tampa? I saw your workshops and will try to come to those if possible.
    Regarding the above mentioned berries can you advise if there are any danger of confusing them with a potentially poisonous similar plant? I hope I can find some of the berries ou mentioned. I was actually in boynton beach last weekend and on a stroll through the lantana nature preserve I did see coco plums not knowing they were edible. The official info board of the park only said that they are a great source of food for wildlife! I guess I will count myself as wildlife from now on! 🙂 its so wonderful to learn about easible plants in my area! To bad that in most neighborhoods they chop and clip all the wild plants to keep it clean and neat 🙂 anyway, I am looking forward to learning more about local plants in your newsletters and potentially also your classes! Much love! Janna

    Reply
  • farouk October 30, 2014, 3:35 am

    Back to my childhood when we used to collect whatever we could from the torrential seasonal “ Gash River “ which divides Kassala town into eastern and western parts. Those lucky of us could catch whole Banana trees with full fruit while others could get a new plant ready to transplant in any place in this fertile alluvial soil cover. The source of Banana is “Suwagi – vernacular for gardens” on the southern part of the town. Kassala is still famous of exporting Banana (and other fruits) especially to the Gulf countries. Let me switch to what is called locally “Musa el Kazib” – i.e. pseudo Banana. This is an ornamental plant which I have grown in my garden about two years ago. It is now making a beautiful Banana Fan extending to nearly 8m in height, 4m in width and about 0.75m just above ground surface. It is now blossoming and I can see bees hovering over a colourless jelly a bit sweet material in these blossoms. Part of this material exudes, turns brown and solidifies. Few poor bees can be seen trapped in reminiscent of the rat bait. Scientifically it is called Ravenala madagascariensis.They say it is related to the southern African genus Strelitzia and the South America genus Phenakospermum. They also claim that some older classification include these genera in the Banana family Musaceae. It is also given the name “Traveler’s palm” by virtue of providing water to the thirsty traveller as well as acting as a compass to direct his way. Fortunately mine has been planted quite fitting North – South of the compass. Dear Green, me too may have been “ similarly plagued” since my first grade in the intermediate school playing gymnastics; I hope all is well on your side.

    Reply
  • Barry November 6, 2014, 9:27 pm

    Hi Deane. I liked the article about the ground cherries. I grew a few of these plants this year in my garden. They produced (for me) all season, non stop. Soon, these plants produced more than I could eat. I found that not everyone likes them. I find them sort of “hit and miss”, but that’s probably because I eat them in different stages of ripeness. But they’re pretty good none the less. The only thing that would make them better, is finding them in the wild. I plan to take my left over seeds, and look for different places on the edge of the wooded area I spend lots of time in, to spread seeds. Since I have not found any wild one’s near my area, perhaps my spreading of the seeds can help re-introduce them in my area. We can hope, huh? Also, I did not find the species I had to be bitter at all. If anything, a bit tart if I ate any that were not yet ripened enough. For me, that was a bright dull yellow. The yellow gets deeper as they ripen along. All of the above was my experience with the species I had. I purchased my seed from a place out of Canada called Ritchers Herbs, (check that spelling).
    Thanks for the news letter. Hope the medical goes well.

    Reply

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